It's here! Now breathe again!
Chapter Nine: Revelations
The three of them, plus Snape, had relocated to the empty Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom down the corridor, where they had dragged a few chairs together and sat while Harry attempted to explain what had been happening to him that morning, relating everything he could think of to them since Snape's appearance. The fact that no one could knew he was there but Harry, the link between them, the short leash the man was on. Everything.
Well, not quite everything; he'd left out the part about his semi-breakdown in the empty classroom, and the other break-down in the hallway outside of the Hospital Wing.
And hadn't yet gotten to tell them about the possibility that Snape was absorbing his magic... he wasn't sure if he wanted to tell them that just yet.
"It all sounds so unbelievable..." said Hermione uncertainly, looking around the room in a way that suggested to Harry that she she was trying to see for herself if Snape was really there.
"I know it does." Harry agreed, "But there's not much I can do about it."
"I realise that! But- Oh, Harry! You must know how it looks from our point of view... you're telling us all of this information and I'm trying to think of a way this could be possible, and I'm trying so hard to see him here with us now, but I just can't!" she shook her head hopelessly, "It doesn't even feel like there's a ghost here to me... you know how you can feel it when the Bloody Baron is around- like someone's watching you... but I don't feel anything at all. I want to believe you Harry, I really do-"
"I believe it." said Ron all of sudden. It was the first thing he had said since Harry had told them he was being haunted by Snape's ghost.
Hermione turned to Ron sharply, staring at him incredulously.
"You do?" asked Harry, hopefully.
Ron shrugged, "Why shouldn't I? Look, it's true that I've been thinking all morning that you'd gone bonkers, but really; the three of us have seen way too much really unbelievable stuff happen and we believed all of that... so why start now?"
"But, Ron!" Hermione snapped, "There isn't anything written in any book I've ever read about a ghost being invisible to absolutely everybody but one person, or being tied to someone-"
"So what?" said Ron, "The Hallows were supposed to be a legend, and they were in a book. But being in a book didn't mean the legend was true- uh, I mean, it didn't make it a real legend – you know what I'm getting at? – It was all real, not just a story. Books don't have all the answers, 'Mione. So, why should this be any different? Just because we can't see something, or don't believe it or whatever, doesn't mean it's not real..." he trailed off, shrugging again, "That's what I think, anyway..."
Hermione gaped at him, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, trying to formulate some kind of rebuff and failing, then, after a full fifteen seconds of her wordless mouthing, managed to breathe out a high pitched gasp of "Ronald Weasley!" apparently gaining back the use of her voice.
Ron stiffened, bracing himself for –
"I think I love you."
Ron's eyebrows scrunched together and an incredulous "You 'think'-?" was all the red-head managed to say before Hermione leaned over, grabbed two fistfuls of his shirt and snogged him.
"I think I may vomit..." Snape moaned, turning his back on the lot of them.
Harry snickered, fixing his gaze on his knees and picking at a stray thread in his pants.
"I think you're traumatising Snape..." Harry murmured to the air, resolutely not looking in the direction of his friends' public display of affection.
"Quite." Snape grumbled, "I believe I've been scarred for life- death... eternity..."
"Poor you." said Harry, biting back a laugh.
"Shut-up, Snape." said Ron, coming up for air with excellent timing, and Harry took a peek to see the two of them looking at him. Hermione looking decidedly flushed, while Ron seemed quite pleased with himself.
"I think they're done." sad Harry in mock-relief.
"Shut up, Harry." said Ron, though there was not venom in his voice.
"Thank Merlin for little miracles." said Snape, spinning on the spot to look at them once more, while Harry snickered again.
Ron was glancing around, "Complaining, is he?" he asked.
"Yep." said Harry, simply.
"Rightfully so!" Snape barked, annoyed, "They may have difficulty believing I am here, but why must I suffer for it?"
"You'll live- er... or not."
Hermione stood abruptly, cutting Snape off, though she didn't know it.
"Enough about that." she said, in her best brook-no-nonsense tone, face still pink, then moved to stand by Harry – almost directly in front of Snape, as it were. Harry guessed she had seen him looking at Snape and figured out where he was.
"Sir, what was it that you wrote on the last piece of Defence Against the Dark Arts homework I ever turned-in to you?"
"Really, Ganger? Potter, repeat after me..."
"Uh..." Harry began, listening and reiterating awkwardly, "He says he gave you an Outstanding but told you... that you have a remarkable ability in memorising your textbooks word-for-word, but lack all ability to take the information in those textbooks and formulate your own opinion of the subject at hand. Knowledge does not equate to understanding and you'll never get on in the real world if you continue to bury your head in the facts and never address the conjecture... - yeah, I'm not going to repeat the rest of that. And he crossed out the Outstanding and changed it to Acceptable... you never told me about that, Hermione." then added, to Snape, "And you're cruel."
"When have I ever demonstrated differently?" said Snape with a smirk.
Hermione was squinting again, "I didn't think it was necessary to tell anyone as... things happened after that." She held extended her arm in front of her as if for a handshake. "Sir, if you would be so kind..."
"Kind!" Ron sniffed, "Ha!"
Snape ignored him, instead looking down at Harry, "Potter, I avoided everyone in the Great Hall this morning to prevent from causing a stir... I do not know if Miss Granger here will have the same reaction as you if I were to indulge her request."
Harry shrugged, "Now's as good a time as any to see if I'm the exception then, isn't it?"
"Exception to what?" Hermione asked, glancing at Harry curiously.
"He thinks you might have an odd feeling if he shook your hand. Like I did."
"Yeah. Felt like my hand disappeared, just for a moment." Harry shrugged, "It came back though."
Hermione looked a little concerned at that, but turned her eyes back to the seemingly empty space in front of her anyway.
"I'm alright with that, sir." she said, determinedly.
"On your head be it." Snape muttered – though Harry wasn't sure whether the man meant Hermione's head or Harry's – extending his own hand to intersect hers
But Hermione didn't show any sign of noticing a thing.
"That proves that." said Snape, matter-of-factly
Harry sighed, slumping in his seat.
"I take it that I should be feeling something right about now...?" said Hermione uncertainly, arm still outstretched as Snape fiddled with the proffered extremity without any reaction from her; flicking his own hand through it a few more times for good measure, and muttering inanely about the 'centre of the bloody universe'.
"Mmm-hmm..." Harry grunted affirmatively. "It was a good idea though." he added after a moment, reaching up to pat her on the arm. Just at the same moment that Snape finally moved to pull away...
The instant Harry's finger made contact with her elbow, Hermione gasped and flinched, stumbling backwards as if she'd been struck.
Ron was instantly by her side while all Harry could do was gape at her while she doubled-over and panted, as out of breath as she would be if she'd just run a mile, rubbing her forearm, eyes closed.
"What was that?" asked Ron, alternating between looking at Hermione with worry and then to Harry with bafflement, "What happened?"
"I have no idea..." said Harry weakly. He had sensed the faintest trace of a chill in his fingertips when they had brushed against Hermione's skin, but what was he supposed to make of that? Judging by the bewildered expression on Snape's face, he was just as confused as Harry.
"'Mione- you alright?" Ron was asking, catching Hermione's shoulder in an attempt to comfort her, but she shrugged him off.
"I'm fine. Fine. Just- let me- catch my breath." she puffed, a shudder running through her, "That was just... a bit of a shock- like getting a zap off of the aerial on the telly... but worse."
"Getting a what off the what?" said Ron, then looked to Harry again desperately, "What's she going on about?"
"Electricity, Ron. Like lightning." Hermione snipped, shaking her head. She then attempted to collect herself, straightening up from her slouch, though her breathing was still quicker than it should have been. "It went straight through my arm." she added, rubbing her arm absently as she flopped into the closest chair she could reach and tilted her head back, breathing deeply. "Cold and hot and painful and pins-and-needles- ugh!" she shuddered again. "It took my breath away..."
"An arc of magical energy..." Snape muttered to himself, barely loud enough for Harry to hear, "How curious."
"Arc of magic?" Harry questioned, but before Snape could even open his mouth to answer him, Hermione gasped "Ah!" and leant forward on her seat so quickly she nearly fell off it.
"Did you say it was an arc?" she asked, the words running into each other in her haste to get them out, "Of magic? How is that possible? If Professor Snape is a ghost – oh, and I may not be able to sense you, sir, but I absolutely believe you're there. Harry couldn't have done that on his own – then that just can't happen; ghosts can't use magic, Harry. They don't-"
"I know I know." Harry said hurriedly, "I was just asking him what he meant by-"
"I meant exactly what I said, Potter," Snape cut-in, "Tell me you did not feel a coolness when you touched Miss Granger just now?"
Harry nodded, "Yeah, I did. But, how did you-? Oh! You had the opposite – that warmth – when you touched her, just like when you touched me before? But I thought I was the only one that felt like that to you?"
"Yes. You are, and I maintain my belief that I am absorbing your magic because of that, Potter. In this instance I believe Miss Granger merely acted as a bridge between the two of us for a brief moment; when we both came in contact with her. As impossible as that is..." he shook his head, unbelieving.
"But how could- Hang-on... What? You felt my magic through Hermione?"
"I beg you pardon?" Hermione squeaked, looking shocked, "It was your magic that I felt, Harry?"
"Snape thinks he's absorbing my magic somehow, and that you were a bridge between us just then."
"But ghosts can't use magic, Harry." Hermione repeated, slightly exasperated, "So, Professor Snape can't be taking yours."
"I know, Hermione. I'm just repeating what he said."
"OI! Would somebody tell me what the bloody hell is going on?" Ron demanded, loudly, and both Harry and Hermione's heads whipped around to face him as one.
They'd forgotten he was there for minute, and Ron looked fully aware of that fact and thoroughly annoyed with them for doing so, and leaving him out of their three-way – well, two-and-a-half-way – conversation.
"Sorry, Ron..." said Hermione, guiltily, and reached over to grab his hand, "What do you want to know?"
Ron shrugged and squeezed her hand,"Let me catch up, would you...? I got that Snape's nicking Harry's magic, and you got hurt by Harry's magic while Snape tried to nick it through you? Right?"
"Right." Hermione nodded, "But Professor Snape can't nick-"
"Yeah, I got that too. But what happened then if that's not it?"
Hermione's eyes widened a little and she glanced to Harry, who raised his eyebrows in what he hoped was an inoffensive 'let's hear it then' kind of way.
Hermione dropped her gaze and muttered "I don't know." at the floor.
"Well, there's a first time for everything, isn't there." Snape scoffed.
"Are you sure you're a ghost, sir?" Hermione continued, more confidently than before, addressing the room at large.
"I asked that before." said Harry, quickly, "He says he can't be anything else. I suggested a poltergeist-"
"That's silly, Harry-"
"I know! Idiot me!" Harry threw his arms up and Snape snorted derisively at him. "Shush, you."
"Sir, Potter. Sir."
"Alright! Shush, sir."
Ron caught-on to the half-conversation he was hearing and laughed, while Snape glowered at Harry with enough venom to make him blush unintentionally in apology.
"Potter, as much fun as this all is for you, there are more pressing matters to attend to... and though it is true that we now have one more superiorly vague clue to point us in the right direction to figuring this out – an excellent thing, I'm sure – it is also true that, regardless of how much it is discussed at this moment, we'll find no answers to anything important merely within the knowledge bases of you and I – and Miss Granger and Weasley too I suppose-" he added grudgingly, "-alone..."
"I'm not so sure I've gone mental any more though." Harry pointed out, "One good thing."
There was a slight curve to the corner of Snape's mouth as he replied, "Debatable, as you now seem more willing to drive me insane."
Harry bit his lip, "Just a joke... sir."
"Oh, yes. Hilarious." Snape dead-panned, then went on more seriously, "May we leave now? Your friends seem to be convinced enough of your sanity themselves- enough to prevent them from having you carted off at least."
"Yeah, yeah. Moaning Myrtle, here we come..." Harry sighed, ruefully. He wasn't looking forward to that meeting.
"Myrtle?" Ron piped-up, watching Harry stand, "What d'you want to see her for?"
"To ask some questions." Harry shrugged, "She's the only ghost in the castle that's easy to find... and besides; she's more talkative than most of the others combined."
Five minutes later, the four of them edged into the Myrtle's bathroom. Severus thoroughly enjoying watching the expressions of distaste flitting across Potter, Weasley and Granger's faces.
The conversation with Potter's friends had been important for Potter's sake, Severus had put up with it for as long as he did for that reason alone. Although, the event concerning Granger was interesting to say the least... the connection between himself and Potter was strange enough as it was, but Severus wondered if he had misjudged their link entirely – if it could arc through Granger as it had, then perhaps it was much, much stronger than he had first imagined.
And that realisation unsettled him entirely.
He was beginning to wonder if it was as Potter had said; that Severus was not a ghost at all.
But, what else could he be?
"Oh, this place is dreary..." Granger complained, as she stepped daintily over a puddle on the floor.
"I can think of something else that's dreary." Weasley muttered, "And she's not about, by the looks of things..."
True enough; Moaning Myrtle was nowhere to be seen.
"She's probably down the loo..." said Potter, with distaste, and headed for one of the toilet stalls while withdrawing his wand from his pocket. He opened the door and snapped "Evanesco Aqua." flicking his wand at the toilet inside, making the water in the bowl disappear, then "Accio Myrtle!" with another flick, and Severus couldn't help the snort that escaped him.
"Did you truly learn nothing during all of your six years of schooling here at Hogwarts? Or have you merely forgotten that spells are entirely ineffective against ghosts?"
Potter smacked himself across the forehead.
"Accio..." the boy hesitated, "-air around Myrtle?"
Severus was about to tell the boy he was an pure moron when Myrtle came shooting out of the loo with speed of a Firebolt and flew straight through Potter, who shouted something incomprehensible and probably offensive and jumped away far too late to avoid her, before the ghost slowed and righted herself in mid-air, looking around in absolute dismay.
That was unexpected.
Then the ghostly girl damn-near exploded.
"WHO DID THAT!" she shrieked, "WHO. DID. THAT!" She was descending on Weasley and Granger in abject fury. She didn't seem to notice Severus standing there.
Weasley instantly pointed at Potter without a trace of remorse.
Myrtle spun and rounded on Potter in an instant, howling "WAS IT YOU!" then stopped short, blinking in surprise, "Oh! Harry! Hello..." the last was said in a low tone that Severus was sure was an attempt at flirting, if the demented grin on her face was anything to go by – and that was ignoring her bobbing eyebrows.
Had she been bipolar when she was alive? If so, it was probably a good thing that basilisk got to her first... someone would have strangled her eventually.
"Hi, Myrtle..." greeted Potter, plastering on a false smile, and edging away from from the ghost as she sidled up to him suggestively, "Uh, h- how are you?"
"Dreadful as always!" she huffed, "I see you're not dead."
"I heard you were. That's so disappointing..." she sniffled, shoulders sagging.
Weasley made a gagging sound and Granger dug an elbow into his ribs.
"I was having an entirely terrible daydream about death while I was down there in the U-bend..." she sighed wistfully, then spat "You disturbed me!" at him accusingly and crossed her arms,"What d'you want?"
"Er- I..." Potter's gaze wandered over Weasley and Granger before coming to a halt on Severus, questioning him silently, "We wanted to ask you some... serious things about... about death. "
"Oooooh!" Myrtle cooed, wholly delighted by the boy's request, "What do you want to know?"
Potter faltered, "Er, first..." he looked to Severus again and pointed, "Do you see him?".
"Him who?" said Myrtle, looking around, "The redhead?"
"No..." again, green eyes met black, both realising the same thing.
If a confirmed, in-the-flesh – or in-the-spectre? – ghost couldn't see Severus either then...
Why couldn't things just be simple for once.
"Who should I see?" Mrytle asked, and Potter waved his hand, "Don't worry about it... um..."
"Ask her if ghosts can make attachments to the living, links like the one between you and I." asked Severus, and Potter did just that.
"Attachments?" Myrtle repeated, "Oh, yes. Absolutely. After I died I haunted Olive Hornby around school for years – she deserved it for teasing me! – and I even followed her after she graduated as well! Until the Ministry came and forced me to come here..." she gestured to the bathroom around them, then whined, "They spoiled all of my fun!"
"How did they force you to leave her alone? Was there a spell to break the link?"
"Spell? No, no, nothing like that... they threatened to send someone from the Spectre-control at the ministry to arrest me if I didn't stop. So I left." she shrugged, "Olive was getting boring to be around anyway."
"Ask how she could leave Miss Hornby so easily, Potter. Did she not feel compelled to return to her?"
"No." said Myrtle, once Harry had repeated the questions, "It wasn't like I had to haunt her. I think it would have been horrible if I didn't have a choice..."
Potter pre-empted Severus' next query, "But, can ghost be like that? Be linked to someone and have no choice about it?"
Myrtle thought about it for a moment, "I don't think so... I know some of the other ghosts at Hogwarts followed around people they cared about when they were alive for a while, but I think they all did that because they were just feeling sentimental. No other reason..." she shrugged.
"What about a ghost being invisible? Is it possible to choose those that can see you?" Severus asked, and once again Potter reiterated it to Myrtle, Granger and Weasley standing off to once side silently, listening.
"Oh, not all of us can do that. I don't even know how to try... and I think if I could do it I wouldn't be able to choose; I would have to pick visible or invisible." she shrugged again, "Maybe I'll ask the Baron about it – he can do it, you know, – but I'm pretty sure he'd say the same as me."
"What about magic?" Potter asked, "I know you can't use it – but can you take it?"
"What?" said the ghost, looking perplexed, "I can't take anything from anyone... are you accusing me of taking someone's magic?" her voice was rising with ire as she spoke and Potter had to head her off before she blew up again.
"No! I know you haven't. But can you? Take magic, I mean..." Myrtle was shaking her head before Potter had finished his sentence.
"Nope. Your magical core dies when you do, simple as that. Can't use, can't take, can't give. Why do you want to know all of this anyway? Are planning on dying soon?" she sounded hopeful.
But, Severus was now far from hopeful for himself.
Severus' expectations of Myrtle yielding some positive answers to them were rapidly being dashed with every one of his theories she negated.
He didn't think was much use in asking any more questions... she'd already basically disproved his existence, after all... even though his existence disproved her disproving his existence.
Ah, the absolute simplicity of it all...
Ganger cleared her throat, "Um, excuse me..." she muttered, addressing Myrtle, "What would you say if we told you that we know a ghost that all of this – all that Harry asked you about – is happening to? A ghost that really can't leave the living person he's attached to, even though he wants to... and only that person can see him – or hear him, for that matter – and he might be able to take magic from that... person... too..." she trailed off under the icy glare Myrtle was giving her.
"You're all teasing me, aren't you?" said the transparent girl, her face distorting into a something between rage and hurt, "You're not serious at all, are you? This is all some sick, twisted joke to torment me, isn't it? ISN'T IT!"
Potter was backing away from her slowly as Myrtle bared down on him, "No! It really isn't a joke. I'm serious!"
"No you're not! I've been teased before, but asking me about death to do it is a whole other level of torture for- Oh!" With turn fast enough to give Severus psychological whiplash, Myrtle's temper was gone once more, to be replaced by a grin that nearly split her face in two.
Potter, who had his arms raised in front of him as if he could block the ghost if she decided to punch him, looked at her with absolute confusion, "Myrtle...?"
"Levels!" she shouted at him, "I remember something about levels! There were five of them. Life and Death on each side. When a ghost isn't a ghost and when it is! But- oh no, what was it? Five levels... five levels... of life? Oh no... I can't remember..." she dissolved into incoherent murmurs.
Granger suddenly gasped, a loud enough sound to catch Severus' attention, and just in time to see the bushy-haired girl dart out of the bathroom.
"Where's Granger off to?" he muttered to Potter, who turned around to look for the girl.
"Ron?" Potter asked, drawing Weasley's attention away from Myrtle, who was pacing up and down in front of them with a pained look of concentration on her transparent features.
"Where'd 'Mione go?" asked the redhead, turning a full circle on his heels looking for Granger
"I was going to ask you that." said Potter.
"Granger positively flew out of here." said Severus.
Potter pondered this for a moment, then grinned.
"Where does Hermione go when she has an idea?" the boy asked Weasley, who shook his head at first then stopped the motion mid-shake with a grin to match Potter's.
"The library." they said together.
"Bye, Myrtle!" Potter said, hurriedly, and ran out of the bathroom in much the same way Granger had, Weasley on his heels, and Moaning Myrtle calling out after them that "But I haven't remembered what it was that forgot yet! Come back! HEY! COME BACK HERE!"
Myrtle's shrieks echoed after them down the corridor after them as they passed the extended Weasley family, who were still prodding their wands at the stonework, repairing the castle little by little.
"Potter..." Severus began, floating alongside the boy as he bolted down the corridor in the direction of the moving staircase, "As interesting as Granger's sudden impulse to visit the library may be to you, it is of very little importance to me-"
"It will be important to you if Hermione's figured out something about you. As you said, sir. What was it-? Hermione 'has a remarkable ability for memorising textbooks word-for-word'." he quoted this last part in a voice that Severus supposed was meant to sound like him.
He didn't appreciate it.
"Terrible impersonation, Potter; unlike me entirely. Ten points from Gryffindor."
"I'll take that as a compliment, sir."
Weasley was giggling again as they rounded the last corner and walked out onto the moving staircase. Granger hadn't gained much of a lead, as she was waiting on the landing above for the stair to move in her favour and allow her to reach the next level.
"Hermione!" Weasley shouted at her, and the girl looked down at them from her vantage point, "Did you have to run away without saying anything?"
"I think I know what Myrtle was talking about!" Granger shouted back, "The five levels!"
The stair between them finally shifted into place, and Potter and Weasley sprinted up it to reach Granger, just as the next set of steps moved as well, swinging over to link them to the fourth floor.
"What are the levels then?" said Potter, when they reached her, "And why run off to the library if you already know?"
They started moving up the next stair before they had even finished clunking into place.
"That's just it; I don't know."said Granger "I remember reading something about it ages ago, but I can't be too sure if I'm remembering it right..."
"Is this self-doubt, I hear, from Miss Granger?" Severus sneered, and Potter blatantly ignored him.
"The Five Plains of Existence." said Granger, "Most people believe there are only three plains – Life, Death, and Limbo between them – but there's a legend that goes so far as to say that there are actually five plains. If I am remembering right; most wizards and witches think the legend is exactly that: a legend, and put it down as something not worth their time to research... but it struck me as something really interesting."
"But, Hermione, what how does that legend have anything to do with what's going on with me and Snape?"
They reached the fourth floor landing, heading for the corridor that lead to the library, and Granger paused with her hand on the door handle, looking sweepingly through the air around them – for him, Severus guessed.
"Because, if the legend is real, then it's completely possible – even likely – that Professor Snape may not be a ghost at all, but something much more extraordinary."
I have to admit... the ending of this chapter was completely intentional this time. Mwahaha! (And I'm well aware of my evilness, thanks. lol)
On that note: Reviews are my brain's favourite food. ;)
(Ah, also, I realised I made a little mistake with the placement of the Hospital Wing. I forgot it moved. First book, it was on the first floor. In the sixth book it was on the third floor... whoops... I'm going to leave it on the first floor for this fic now though. Hope no one cares about that too much.)